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NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT: Summaries of the statements made by the Transform Now Plowshares

Below is a summary of each pre-sentencing statement delivered by the Transform Now Plowshares (courtesy of Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C.)

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Summary Notes of Michael Walli’s Pre-Sentencing Statement

  • Stated that he was offended by the fact that the Nazi regime had a legal right to exist and that either by silence or overt support Catholics consented to it.
  • Quoted St. Thomas Aquinas: “Laws that do not serve the common good are unjust.”
  • Quoted St. Augustine: “An unjust law is no law at all.”
  • Stated that he acted in accordance with Jesus. Jesus’ declaration, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” was a call to action.
  • Stated that his actions at Y-12 did not constitute a violation of law, but rather his obedience to God’s law. “I am a citizen of heaven. We engaged in our lawful, missionary work at Y-12. I committed no crime. I have no remorse.”
  • Stated that he was acting in support of the rule of law. “I am the face of tomorrow. The face of total demilitarization and vindication of the prophets.”
  • In response to a comment made during the hearing by U.S. District Attorney Jeff Theodore, he stated that we both have something in common in admiring Rosa Parks as he commended him for sitting on the same seat of the bus that Rosa Parks was arrested in during a visit he made to Michigan where the bus was on display.
  • Read the TNP action indictment.

Summary Notes of Greg Boertje-Obed’s Pre-Sentencing Statement

  • Read an excerpt of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech re: why he opposed the Vietnam war.
  • Read an excerpt from Dan Berrigan’s poem: “Hymn To A New Humanity.”
  • Stated that people around the world see that the U.S. is breaking the law. Three new Bomb plants are being built, including at Oak Ridge, which will maintain nuclear weapons for over 80 years. If the U.S. were to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it “would promote respect for the law.”

Summary Notes of Sr. Megan Rice’s Pre-Sentencing Statement

  • One of the great problems is that people don’t know the 70 year history of nuclear weapons and the secrecy that surrounds nuclear policy. Encouraged the Judge and everyone in court to read the book Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen.
  • Spoke of how every single day and all of life is a miracle and how the Bomb is a threat to that miracle.
  • Referred to the book A Beautiful Mind and how many of the best minds today agree that there is an alternative to nuclear weapons.
  • Spoke of a “cloud of deception” surrounding the economic extortion going on at Y-12 and that this was never mentioned at the first sentencing hearing regarding the restitution the TNP were ordered to pay.
  • Acknowledged the support the TNP have received from all over the world and showed the court a signed card from the Afghan Youth Volunteers that was recently sent to her by Kathy Kelly.
  • Appealed to the judge not to show leniency toward her and that it would be an honor to spend the rest of her life in prison.
  • Spoke of the injustice she has witnessed first-hand in the for-profit detention complex and the dehumanizing jail conditions.
  • Spoke of the connections between the rich controlling the wealth and resources at the expense of the poor and how the military budget constitutes a theft from the poor.
  • Cited an Appellate Court’s overturning the conviction of the Plowshares Eight and Appellate Judge Spaeth’s opinion regarding the catastrophic danger posed by nuclear weapons.
  • Referred to German Judge Ulf Panzer who was arrested for opposing the deployment of Pershing II nuclear missiles at the U.S. air base in Mutlangen in 1987 and lawyers and jurists worldwide who declared nuclear weapons to be illegal.
  • Judge granted her request to sing the song “Sacred the Land.” All present in the main courtroom and the overflow courtroom joined in singing the song.

For more on the TNP, click here.

NEWS: Transform Now Plowshares sentenced

from Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

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Judge Amul R. Thapar passed sentence on Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice
and Michael Walli on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 in federal court in
Knoxville, Tennessee. The three were convicted in May 2013 for their
nonviolent action called Transform Now Plowshares at the Y12 Nuclear
Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on charges of depredation of
property and sabotage–the convictions carried possible maximum
sentences of 30 years in prison. Sentencing guidelines, based on
factors including history,  recommended sentences ranging from 6-10
years.

Sentencing began at 1:30pm; the three were permitted to be in the
courtroom together by Judge Thapar.

Michael Walli received a sentence of 62 months on each count, to be
served concurrently, followed by 3 years of supervised release.

Greg Boertje-Obed received a sentence of 62 months on each count, to
be served concurrently, followed by 3 years of supervised release.

Megan Rice received a sentence of 35 months on each count, to be
served concurrently, followed by 3 years of supervised probation.

“Judge Thapar has tried to strike a compromise that reflects the
nature of this nonviolent action but satisfies the government’s demand
that Megan, Michael and Greg’s sentence send a deterrent message to
the wider community. For now, their bodies remain in prison. But their
voices are free, reminding us that the central issue of this action
and trial have not been resolved–as long as the government continues
to produce thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction in Oak Ridge or
anywhere, people are required to resist,” said Ralph Hutchison,
coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance

At the hearing, each of the Plowshares resisters spoke, reminding the
court of the central purpose of their action–to call the court’s
attention to the ongoing violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty at the Y12 plant in Oak Ridge. In testimony at hearings leading
up to the trial, former Attorney General of the United States Ramsey
Clark called the production of nuclear weapons components at Y12
“unlawful,” and the work there “a criminal enterprise.”

Megan, Michael and Greg entered Y12 in the wee hours of the morning on
July 28, 2012, cutting four fences and traversing a
lethal-force-authorized zone, arriving at the Highly Enriched Uranium
Materials Facility, the nation’s warehouse of weapons grade highly
enriched uranium. They poured blood on the walls of the HEUMF and
spray painted “Plowshares Please Isaiah,” and “The Fruit of Justice is
Peace.” They also chipped a corner of the concrete wall with a small
hammer, a symbolic act reflecting the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah
who said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”

The statement issued at the time declared the United States in
violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and said Y12 was
chosen for the action because of plans for a multi-billion dollar bomb
plant to be built there–the Uranium Processing Facility. The sole
purpose of the UPF (pricetag now $19 billion) is to produce
thermonuclear cores for warheads and bombs. Y12 is an active weapons
production facility–workers today are performing Life Extension
Upgrades on the W76 warhead at Y12.

Supporters outside the courtroom said, “The United States is breaking
its own law when it builds bombs in Oak Ridge. Any goverment that
would lock up Megan, Michael and Greg is desperate to hide the truth.
By their actions, they have broken the silence; their sacrifice
challenges each of us to speak up for a safer world. In prison or out,
Michael, Greg and Megan will continue to pray and work to save the
life of the planet.”

For more information:

NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT: A reflection post-trial on the Transform Now Plowshares

laffinby Art Laffin
the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House

To begin, I am compelled to express heartfelt gratitude to the OREPA Community for the incredible loving hospitality extended to all who came to the trial. From arranging where people would sleep, to preparing evening meals, to organizing transportation, drop-offs and pick-ups, the OREPA Community pulled out the stops to accommodate EVERYONE. Thanks be to God for the OREPA Community and for their steadfast peace witness at Y-12 spanning many years. This witness has been, and continues to be, a great beacon of life and hope for our human family.

fruit-of-justice-tnpThe community of faith and resistance that gathered from around the U.S. and from Tennessee to stand with the TNP was a remarkable gift beyond measure. Each day the main courtroom used for the trial and a nearby overflow courtroom were filled to capacity. This outpouring of support demonstrated to the court, the jury, the media, the city of Knoxville and the nation that Sr. Megan, Mike and Greg were not alone in their desire to see the swords of our time hammered into plowshares.

Unsurprisingly, what emerged during the government’s case and throughout the trial was the repeated claim by the prosecutors Mr. Theodore and Ms. Kirby  that to merely go onto the Y-12 site was obstructing the national defense. Further, because the TNP were able to cut through fences and get to the Highly Enriched Uranium Facility (HEUF), this action had negatively affected the credibility of Y-12 and the U.S. nuclear deterrent, according to government witness, Steve Erhart, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration manager at Y-12. During his testimony Erhart described how Y-12 developed and processed uranium for the first atomic bomb and has been involved in the production of nuclear weapons ever since. Y-12 makes uranium parts for nuclear warheads, dismantles old weapons and is the primary storehouse for bomb-grade uranium in the U.S., he said. Under cross-examination, Erhart admitted that the use of U.S. nuclear weapons would be “devastating,” similar to the death and destruction caused by U.S. nuclear weapons used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Erhart also acknowledged that the TNP action exposed the numerous security failures of Y-12. A  report by the DOE’s inspector general said Y-12 security failures included broken detection equipment, poor response from security guards and insufficient federal oversight of private contractors running the facility.

The testimony of Kirk Garland, the first security guard on the scene was illuminating. Upon seeing the early morning witness and encountering Sr. Megan, Greg and Mike, he stated “I knew what I had.” Despite the fact that the TNP were in a deadly force zone, he knew from his experience of working at Rocky Flats and Pantex nuclear weapons facilities that they were peace activists and did not feel compelled to use deadly force. He was faulted for this by his superiors and was subsequently fired. It was pointed out several times during the trial that Garland was really the scapegoat for this embarrassing security breach.

Sr. Megan, Mike and Greg spoke movingly about why they acted and what they did, taking full responsibility for their actions. Sr. Megan conveyed that she went to Y-12 because all life is imperiled by nuclear weapons and that she sought to bring healing, forgiveness and transformation there. “My regret was I waited 70 years,” she said. “Y-12 is manufacturing that which can only cause death.” She also spoke of how her uncle, who had visited Nagasaki six weeks after the bombing, had a great impact on her. And she was able to offer a powerful reading of the TNP action statement. Mike shared that he was complicit in committing war crimes as a soldier during the U.S. war in Vietnam and Cambodia. He said he was compelled to emulate the example given by Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day and that it was his “intent to do God’s will.” Greg, who gave both opening and closing statements, shared that he, too, was a veteran who was trained to fight and win a nuclear war. He said that nuclear weapons provide an illusion of security and that the U.S. was in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it signed. He also characterized their action as a “miracle,”  when explaining how they were able to get to the HEUF. In his closing statement he illustrated what the good Samaritan parable really means for us today and that like the emperor of the fairy tale, the DOE is naked and does not have real security. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Greg declared that real security comes “when we have justice for all the nations.”

Ann Wright, a former career military officer and diplomat who is now a peace activist,  testified as an expert witness in national security. Referring to her experience in once helping to oversee the transfer of enriched uranium from Kazakistan to the Oak Ridge Y-12 facility she underscored how dangerous nuclear material is and expressed her shock at the flawed internal security at Y-12.

One moment of tragic irony in the trial for me occurred when the prosecution was questioning Retired General Rodney Johnson, who is now in charge of maintenance at Y-12.  As he was itemizing the expenses for “decontaminating” the exterior of the HEUF building due to blood being poured and messages being spray-painted on it, nothing was ever said about the highly enriched uranium contained inside the building and how this substance could destroy life and cause irreversible contamination of the environment. It was as if this lethal material was invisible and that this was simply a storage building like any other. This was the kind of psychic numbing–the utter failure to come to terms with the truth– that was operative throughout the trial.

Two other special moments that occurred during the trial involved the acknowledgment of two deceased friends and peacemakers. Tom Lewis, a member of the Catonsville Nine and plowshares activist was mentioned because his blood, which had been frozen for use in a future plowshares action, was used in this action. And Fr. Dick McSorley, SJ was mentioned in the testimony since a quote from him, “It’s A Sin To Build A Nuclear Weapon,” was left at the Y-12 site. It was a beautiful occasion to see the joy on the face of Sr. Rosemary McSorley, Dick’s sister, who was present at the trial, when her brother’s name was invoked.

In Greg’s opening statement he recited from one of Mike’s favorite scripture passages: If today you hear God’s voice harden not your hearts.(Psalm 95) Despite the irrefutable truths that were spoken in court by Sr. Megan, Greg and Mike, and their outstanding legal team of Bill Quigley, Frank Lloyd, Chris Irwin, Bobbie Hudson and Anabel Dwyer, about the immorality and illegality of nuclear weapons, and the urgent need to bring about a disarmed world, the jury could not bring itself to accept their defense. Psychic numbing prevailed. God’s law was not heeded. And international law and elements of the necessity defense, which had been previously ruled by Judge Thapar as inadmissible evidence, was not deemed relevant. Thus, the TNP were really convicted for rejecting the sinful policy of deterrence and for exposing and nonviolently resisting an empire which has as its centerpiece the nuclear idol.

On May 9,  the morning after Sr. Megan, Mike and Greg were convicted and jailed, our community gathered outside the court before attending a special hearing to see if our now imprisoned friends would be eligible for release. I offered a selection from Dan Berrigan (whose 92nd birthday was the same day) to help put into perspective and gain some deeper insight into what we experienced in court and how that is a reflection of daily life in a nuclear empire. In Testimony: The Word Made Fresh,  Dan writes the following in the chapter titled ‘An Ethic of Resurrection':

…The ethic of the body given, the blood outpoured! The act led straight to the scaffold and to that “beyond” we name for want of a better word, resurrection. We have not, in this century or any other, improved on this. More, being equally fearful of living and dying, we have yet to experience resurrection, which I translate, “the hope that hopes on.”

A blasphemy against this hope is named deterrence, or Trident submarine, or star wars, or preemptive strike, or simply, any nuclear weapon. These are in direct violation of the commandment of Jesus: “Your ancestors said: ‘An eyes for an eyes,’ but I say to you, offer no violent resistance to evil. Love your enemies.” That is why we speak again and again of 1980 and all the Plowshares actions since, how some of us continue to break the demonic clutch on our souls of the ethic of Mars, of wars and rumors of wars, inevitable wars, just wars, necessary wars, victorious wars, and say our no in acts of despair. For us, all these repeated arrest, the interminable jailings, the life of our small communities, the discipline of nonviolence, these have embodied and ethic of resurrection.

Simply put, we long to taste that event, its thunders and quakes, its great yes. We want to test the resurrection in our bones. To see if we might live in hope, instead of the silva oscura, the thicket of cultural despair, nuclear despair, a world of perpetual war. We want to taste the resurrection.

May I say we have not been disappointed.

Filled with a spirit of resurrection hope, we all sang together: “We Shall Not Be Moved” before entering the court.

When Sr. Megan, Mike and Greg were brought into the courtroom in shackles we sang: “Sacred the Land.” What we then witnessed during this detention hearing  was a legal squabble about whether Sr. Megan, Mike and Greg can now be treated under the violent crimes act and deemed ineligible for pre-sentencing release. Judge Thapar said he felt “boxed in” by Congress because no differentiation was made between peace activists and terrorists in applying this new statute concerning the destruction of national defense materials. Has the judge become so enslaved by the law that he can’t exercise his own discretion and make a distinction between peacemakers and violent terrorists?  The judge still has an opportunity to act in the interest of justice at sentencing and in his final ruling on whether the sabotage charge should, in fact, be dismissed. Still, the prosecution continues to act vindictively against the TNP and insists that the national defense was injured and obstructed by our three friends.  And so Sr. Megan, Mike and Greg were initially ordered jailed and to be brought back for another hearing in two weeks. However, on May 10 Judge Thapar issued a new ruling saying that the TNP will be detained through their September 23 sentencing. This is because the offense that they are convicted of carries a  maximum prison term of ten years or more and thus falls under the “federal crime of terrorism.” This ludicrous assertion is a blatant misuse of the law and an attempt to mischaracterize and distort the nonviolent  intent of the Transform Now Plowshares. The truth of their action stands on its own.

NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT: Behind nuclear breach, a nun’s bold fervor

by William J. Broad, The NY Times

Transform Now PlowsharesShe has been arrested 40 or 50 times for acts of civil disobedience and once served six months in prison. In the Nevada desert, she and other peace activists knelt down to block a truck rumbling across the government’s nuclear test site, prompting the authorities to take her into custody.

Sister Rice is one of three people arrested in a break-in at a the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation.

She gained so much attention that the Energy Department, which maintains the nation’s nuclear arsenal, helped pay for an oral history in which she described her upbringing and the development of her antinuclear views.

Now, Sister Megan Rice, 82, a Roman Catholic nun of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and two male accomplices have carried out what nuclear experts call the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex, making their way to the inner sanctum of the site where the United States keeps crucial nuclear bomb parts and fuel.

“Deadly force is authorized,” signs there read. “Halt!” Images of skulls emphasize the lethal danger.

With flashlights and bolt cutters, the three pacifists defied barbed wire as well as armed guards, video cameras and motion sensors at the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation in Tennessee early on July 28, a Saturday. They splashed blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility — a new windowless, half-billion-dollar plant encircled by enormous guard towers — and hung banners outside its walls.

“Swords into plowshares,” read one, quoting the Book of Isaiah. “Spears into pruning hooks.” The plant holds the nation’s main supply of highly enriched uranium, enough for thousands of nuclear weapons.

Click here to read the entire article.